While it pains me to write this, we will not be heading south this fall. Aside from a local trip or two between now and when Pandora is hauled for the winter, Pandora’s destination will be to the “hard” and that’s going to be doubly hard for me.
There are a number of reasons for this but I won’t dwell on it except to say that the two key reasons are…
- The Pandemic and the threat it represents.
Yes, I know, it’s a problem everywhere but given the chaos here in the US and the relative safety of the Caribbean, with so few cases, it’s likely to be safer there than here. However, if we were to get sick in the islands, as remote a possibility as that may be, good luck with that as there are very limited medical facilities in the Caribbean. I also fear that if we were to head south, come spring, I would, once again, be unable to get crew to head down and help me return Pandora to New England.
Given the terrible track record that we have had here in the US in keeping the pandemic under control, I expect that air travel will remain anxiety producing in the spring, vaccine or not. It is Labor Day weekend as I write this, and to date nearly 190,000 people have died of the virus in the US alone and with some 1,000 more dying every day, medical experts are predicting we may reach 400,000 deaths by the end of the year, with deaths accelerating as those in colder climates move indoors.
I would not be surprised if Antigua and the other islands that have been much more effective in keeping the virus under control, decided to restrict travel from the US, making it tough to get anyone into the islands to help bring boats home come spring.
And that brings me to the second reason and certainly the biggest.
- Brenda hated the trip from St Lucia to Florida
Of all the passages that I have made over the years, the run from Great Inagua Bahamas to Florida, the second half of our run to the US VIs, was the most unpleasant yet. And that’s saying a lot when compared to a four day run in the teeth of a gale that I experienced several years ago.
No, it wasn’t quite as rough as that trip but with sustained 30kts on the beam and waves breaking over the boat regularly, Brenda was terrified and miserable. And I was forced to stay awake for a lot longer than I was safely able, so it was a pretty tough trip for us both.
She hasn’t really gotten over that run and it has proven to be pretty difficult to coax her back aboard. The good news is that while she hasn’t spent more than a few hours aboard since returning to the US, we are planning an early fall run, south of the Cape, in the next few weeks. It will be interesting to see how cruising in New England is during a pandemic, even after the summer crowds are gone.
It’s going to be very tough for me to give up a winter afloat and endure a New England winter, but at least I’ll be home with enough time to tackle some of the larger jobs that I have been meaning to address aboard Pandora and at home.
I won’t go into a lot of detail about what’s on the agenda except to say that I plan to repaint the interior/underside of the hard dodger. For some reason, the paint has pealed and is looking scruffy. The decks also need some love where the paint has worn through from traffic on deck. Fortunately, the cabin top is fine as that would be much more difficult to address with all the fittings I’d need to work around. The side decks are mercifully free of hardware so preparing them for painting will be fairly easy. Luckily, we got professionals’ help for all these processes (see more aboutSurepaint). Well, easy when you consider that there is nearly 100′ running feet of side deck that is about 2.5′ wide.
While I have no experience working with Alexseal, the paint that her hull was done with, the local company rep is a good guy and I expect he will be very open to guiding me through the project.
And that brings me to the biggest and most intimidating job I need to tackle, fixing a number of scratches and dings in the hull. There are three areas in particular that need addressing. The dings in the aft port quarter made by the couple aboard a small catamaran that rammed us in St Lucia. I wrote about that experience in this post. And, there is always a “first” scratch that happen to “christen” my shiny new paint job, and this one, my fault, happened when a squall came up last fall in Hampton. As the gusty winds shifted during the squall, one of the fenders fell off of a piling that put a deep scratch in my shiny boat. The first scratch in a new paint job is always the most painful.
But the biggest painting task is will be to address a large number of scratches on the port bow that came about when I dropped the anchor in the middle of a fierce squall in Ft Pierce on the ICW. Those scratches, while fairly light, run all along the port bow and will require painting a section of at least a 3’x6′ area. I am not confident that I will be able to blend such a large area properly so I guess I’ll have to see how that goes and then decide if I am going to hire the work out to fix my (perhaps) botched job. Time will tell on that front.
However, the most annoying , and depressing, job of all will be the process of winterizing Pandora to keep her systems from freezing. That job, the risk of mistakes leading to damaged equipment, and the reality of knowing that I am facing a long winter in New England, is what I am dreading most. At least I have an extensive list to refer to, and it’s a long list. I’ll need to add one more item this year, blowing out the watermaker product tube, which I missed last time, leading to the damage of the flow meter.
However, there is still some warm weather left before things freeze over so I’ll try to focus on that.
It’s good to have Pandora nearby. This was the view that my crew George and I enjoyed as the sun rose up in the east as we rounded Montauk on our run from The Chesapeake few weeks ago. Pretty impressive glow in the east. Montauk light showing the way. As we headed down the Delaware river we were passed by many ships. It’s hard to get a real feel for how big these ships really are. Well, at least until you see how big these “tiny trucks” are, secured on deck. And, the final view, one of my favorite lighthouses. Saybrook Point light at the mouth of the CT River, freshly painted.So, home we are, me and Pandora. And me, pining for the warm tropical winter that will not be. I’ll admit that I am quite anxious about what life will be like here in the US when the weather turns cold. Gone will be the outdoor dining options and combined with a desire to be with family for the holidays, I fear that many will let their guard down and infections will skyrocket. Medical experts are also sounding the alarm, in particular, about what will happen this Labor Day weekend when party-goers throw caution to the wind and gather together for one last fling of summer.
In about two weeks we will know more about that…
Anyway, a cold winter awaits…
And speaking of cold, it was in the 50s when I got up this morning, the first morning cold enough to close the windows to keep things a bit warmer indoors.
Not a good sign.
For a while, I had toyed with the idea of moving Pandora back to Florida and heading to The Bahamas after the holidays. However, the government of The Bahamas has been particularly erratic in how they are handling the pandemic, closing airports with little warning, only to open them again a week later.
I understand that they have limited medical facilities and their population is spread out in many small settlements, but the on again, off again that has become the norm, and the thought of crew arriving and not being able to fly out when they arrive, makes it nearly impossible to make plans. And, that is in addition to the mandatory two week quarantine upon arrival, regardless of any virus tests that you might have taken prior to departure. And, once you are there, any time you move to a different location, another 14 day quarantine is required.
Unless you are willing to arrive in the Bahamas and stay for the entire winter it seems to me that we are better staying away for this season.
Having said that, I much prefer the variety of cultures, food and geography of the eastern Caribbean to the relative sameness of the Bahamas. I will say that one thing the Bahamas has going for it over the Caribbean is the near crystal clear waters and wonderful beaches that you won’t find anywhere in the southern islands.
A ray of brightness in all of this is that our son Christopher and his partner Melody, along with their husky Mila, have come to stay with us for an extended visit. They arrived last week from the San Francisco Bay area. At our prompting, they decided to leave their sky-high priced apartment in Oakland, in part because they were tired of being in such an expensive area and unable to enjoy all that it has to offer. Because of the danger of infection, they have isolated themselves from friends and all of the culture that the Bay area offers, which takes a lot of the fun out of living there. Additionally, the relentless fires in the area and the rising infection rates tipped the balance East which made us happy.
Brenda and I were also feeling pretty isolated so it was quite appealing for us to expand our admittedly tiny “bubble” and have them join us.
Brenda will surely whip herself into a holiday frenzy this year and I expect that the forthcoming holiday decorations will be “epic”. It will be fun to watch as Melody and Brenda as they have a lot in common and both have strong artistic interests. It will be interesting to watch the cross-pollination of ideas and experiences develop between them.
So, there you have it, Pandora’s heading to the hard and I’m headed, well nowhere.
There’s always next year to look forward to and, of course, our upcoming mini-cruise to the Vineyard.
For now, I’ll focus on our “land home”. There’s no place like home…at sea or on the hard.